August 20, 2011
Those of you particularly concerned by your privacy and your apps' ability to track you will be thrilled to hear that Apple is taking new steps towards making our devices more anonymous, and eventually protect us from being identified. Indeed, as discovered by Techcrunch, Apple has "deprecated" third-party access to your Unique Device Identifier (UDID) in iOS 5. The UDID, if you never heard of it, is a code unique to each iDevice that allows to identify it. Mostly used for developers to distribute beta software, it can also be accessed by developers of third-party App Store apps to identify your device, target ads, help extraterrestrial intelligence agencies track you and sometimes even restore settings. The problem is, this code is unique to your device, and therefore it could be used to track your device, in particular across apps. For example, an app that serves you ads based on your location might send this code to the advertisers, who in turn will know where your precise device was. After deleting the app and installing another app from a different developer that uses the same advertising network, the network and the app would still know it's you and where you used to be. Ideally, the app should only know what you want it to know, and use your iCloud account to preserve your settings. However, as we said, Apple is only deprecating access to your UDID for now, which doesn't mean it won't be accessible comes iOS 5. Rather, it means that Apple is planning to get rid of it, and this is their way of letting developers know that they need to adapt. Clearly, this is a big change towards better protecting our privacy in iOS. Of course, there are still other ways to track users in iOS, so don't think you're off the grid quite yet.